Off The Mat

We are the Moon

AshtangaYogaOBX — August 29, 2013
Off The Mat

Is it any wonder that our ancient ancestors looked to the sky for answers in a world without television, internet, or even books?  They looked to Nature for solace, temperance, and refuge

Is it any wonder that when they looked into the sky they saw many things and learned about themselves?

Is it any wonder that when they looked at the Sun and the Moon they saw Man and Woman?

Our ancestors across time and throughout many different lines of ethnicity, religion, and tribe saw the Sun as the masculine energy, representing stability, raw power, strength, and sustenance.

When they looked to the Moon they saw woman, always fluctuating, dancing to the many shades of white and grey, unpredictable, wild, and deep in feeling.

I have always had a taste for what is ancient, to me the older, the more interesting.  It is like good wine, age does it well.  One of the many things that drew me to and hooked me into the tradition of the Asthanga Yoga lineage is the deep reverence for the Sun and the Moon.  I felt this connection to the ancient world revived.

The practice begins again and again each day with a gratitude to the Sun with Surya Namaskara A & B, heating us from the insides as the Sun rises in the early morning sky.

Our weekly practice schedule revolves around the cycles of the Moon.  This connects us to the rhythms of Nature as the Moon is the Mother of the Tides.  But for the ladies of the lineage, it is not just the beautiful satellite we have named Moon in the sky, our practice schedule is also set by our own personal Moon.

Like the Moon, we take to monthly cycles and the tradition is clear that we should take extra days of rest from practice.  Currently, it is suggested a woman take rest from practice for at least 2-3 days during heavy bleeding.

Every woman’s cycle is unique to her own Soul.  I must say from my own experience that 2-3 days barely covers it!  I was happy to hear Senior Ashtanga teacher Nancy Gilgoff talk about this subject at the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence.  She said that when she first met Guruji and started practicing, which was in the 1970s, he told her to take rest all the days she was bleeding. She said she did not understand this 2-3 day rule.

I must say that after 2-3 days without practice, personally, I am very restless and ready to get back to the mat.  However, I think it is important for female practitioners to take special care during this time. Observe deeply your body and its needs.  This is a special time for us as women and one that should not be overlooked or pushed through needlessly.

My personal opinion on this subject is that we should deeply focus our practice during the three weeks we have and that fourth week we should let our discipline go to let our bodies take to this process.  This is a process that facilitates life.

My experience is that my body starts to close down on me the day or two before my flow begins. I have finally learned to stop fighting this, to accept the process. It is not forever.  This is where teachings such as the daily minimum (click here to view writing on this subject) come in handy.  Still practice, but let it be lighter than usual.  For example, my practice schedule is third series four days a week, second series one day a week, and first series one day a week.  Around my Moon, I am happy to do first or second series more heavily than usual.  The important thing is that you maintain daily practice.

During the heavy days I take total rest, usually a full 3 days, and when I return I do not just thrust myself back into third series.  Most of the postures in third series are entered from a headstand. Therefore, I ease back into practice with first and second series and I do not do any inversions until the flow of blood has completely subsided.  Maintaining third series as a daily practice takes great stamina over time and is something you have to work back into. This is reaching a new level of maturity for me.  It all comes together, I have made space within myself and I am recharged for three more good weeks of practice until this happens again.

I will admit that at first I went through a period of being envious of our counterparts the Sun because they get to keep burning, burning, burning bright!

But, in time, I have realized that our process is so special and it keeps us in tune with the cyclical Nature of the Universe. As far as the development of your spirituality is concerned, it is offering us quite the gift. It is a time of deep reflection and release.  I am able to give more concentration to my other practices on new levels, such as journaling, chanting, and sitting meditation. It is a unique time to be deep within yourself. What is it you need to let go of?  Then release it into your flow.

Nancy goes so far as to say that practicing during your period is breaking the Yama known as ahimsa (non-violence).  Practice non-violence towards yourself, take rest and learn to love yourself unconditionally.  This time does pass and you can get back on the mat with fresh perspective when it is over.

The women at my studio are communicative on this subject.  We connect on this quite a bit.  The spirit of the Red Tent is alive and well!  I am open to speaking to anyone who has a question or is seeking specific guidance around their cycle and practice.

Tis the Joys of being a Lady!  Ode to our Mother Moon! May we honor Her always.

Love to All Beings.

Michelle Dorer
Owner, Director, Teacher – Ashtanga Yoga Center, Outer Banks, NC

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